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Weekly Edition - Published 15 August 2015

 

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Faster decision making on shale gas for economic growth and energy security

SHALE gas planning applications will be fast tracked through a new, dedicated planning process, under measures announced.  Amber Rudd and Greg Clark announced plans that will ensure local people have a strong say over the development of shale exploration in their area; but will ensure communities and the industry benefit from a swift process for developing safe and suitable new sites. The latest measures include identifying Councils that repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas applications, within the 16 week statutory timeframe, with subsequent applications potentially decided by the Communities Secretary.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said:- "As a 1 Nation Government, we are backing the safe development of shale gas because it's good for jobs giving hardworking people and their families more financial security, good for our energy security and part of our plan to decarbonise the economy. We need more secure, home grown energy supplies; and shale gas must play a part in that.  To ensure we get this industry up and running we can't have a planning system that sees applications dragged out for months, or even years on end. Oversight by the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency of shale developments makes our commitment to safety and the environment crystal clear. We now need, above all else, a system that delivers timely planning decisions and works effectively for local people and developers."

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said:- "There is huge potential right across the Country for safe and sustainable use of shale gas, to provide a clean long term energy source and create British jobs and growth. People's safety and the environment will remain paramount and communities will always be involved in planning applications but no one benefits from uncertainty caused by delays in planning decisions. By fast tracking any appropriate applications today's changes will tackle potential hold ups in the system."

The Government has made clear shale is a national priority, helping to move the UK to a low carbon economy. But Ministers want to ensure shale applications can't be frustrated by slow and confused decision making amongst councils, which benefits no 1.  If planning applications for shale exploration developments take months or even years it can create uncertainty for communities and prevent the development of a potentially vital national industry. These measures will mean Ministers will consider calling in any application for shale exploration, and will recover appeals on a case by case basis.  Local communities will remain fully involved in planning decisions with any shale application; whether decided by Councils or Government. And demanding planning rules to ensure shale development happens only at appropriate sites remain unchanged. On top of this, strong safety and environmental safeguards are also already in place through the regulatory regime to ensure shale exploration and extraction is safe and only happens in appropriate places. As a quasi judicial process planning applications will always be considered with due process and a fair hearing; but the measures will prevent the long delays that mean uncertainty both for business and for local residents.

The Communities Secretary actively considering calling in on a case by case basis shale planning applications and considering recovering appeals. Identifying Councils that repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas applications within the 16 week statutory timeframe requirement (unless applicants agree to a longer period). Underperforming councils' gas and oil planning applications could be determined by the Communities Secretary; Adding shale applications as a specific criterion for recovery of appeals, to ensure no application can 'fall through the cracks.'  Ensuring planning call ins and appeals involving shale applications are prioritised by the Planning Inspectorate as well as taking forward work on revising permitted development rights for drilling boreholes for groundwater monitoring.  The Government also believes that communities hosting shale gas developments should share in the financial returns they generate, and will be presenting proposals later in the year on the design of a new sovereign wealth fund.

 

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